Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Indian police arrest Facebook executive for inciting violence on social network | Prashant Nair

A man (in black) runs to escape from police officers who were arresting him in broad daylight. 22 July 2019, in Srinagar, Kashmir, India. Police personnel arrested a Kashmiri man with a pistol on charges of taking part in an inflammatory speech in Muzaffarabad and sending it to the Facebook account of a company executive. It was apparently to read into this speech that this man’s illegal pistol was arrested

Is Facebook incitement to violence or legal speech protected by the India police department, if he is being arrested for it?

Let’s hope not. A Facebook executive posted a prohibited speech on the social network which prompted police to break into his house. This man, Gurmeet Singh, has been placed under house arrest, and his home searched by police.

Facebook recently faced criticism over hate speech and associated anti-Muslim statements in India. In a joint effort, Facebook India has teamed up with Facebook in India to combat hate speech on the platform.

As part of this joint effort, Facebook India also censors content posted by Jammat-e-Islami, a branch of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, a Sunni Muslim organization that until now had not been targeted. Earlier this week, Facebook India removed several inflammatory posts, such as one calling for communal violence against minorities and another saying how The Government should rape Christians instead of targetting Jammat-e-Islami.

Facebook India has also been critical of the hate speech posted on Facebook by Jammat-e-Islami in June this year. Jammat-e-Islami has received death threats after posting a video showing a local conflict that resulted in the death of a 28-year-old Muslim. The peaceful man involved was shot in the head after the moment of confrontation. However, one Jammat-e-Islami preacher stood up to defend the victims of the tragic event saying that it was just Muslims attacking others.

During his talk, he said that he wanted people to know that “the Muslim is a protected race under Indian Constitution.” Meanwhile, the government of India quickly responded, calling the speech “extremely harmful and ugly.”

It is an unfortunate reality that Facebook India has become increasingly part of the ongoing fight against hate speech. However, to arrest a Facebook executive who made and allowed such inflammatory, illegal, and inciting comments on his company’s platform, is taking the Facebook-India effort to another level. Facebook executives should be removed from company jails before any more of their employees get put behind bars for something they never did.

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